Jaw-Dropping Views: Top Scenic Hikes in the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains

Visitors from all over the world travel to the Blue Ridge Mountains to enjoy the incredible long distance views.  Enjoying the views, especially during sunrise or sunset is incredibly popular, and one of the most beautiful things you could ever see.

For most, the views from the Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks, and observations decks suffice.  But for the more adventurous few, well they want a little more than that.  They want to enjoy being outdoors, hiking, and experiencing more natural scenic views.  

If you're one of those more adventurous types, this article is for you! 

While there are hundreds of hiking trails in the Blue Ridge Mountains that have gorgeous views, we are going to share some of our top picks for the best hikes with the most stunning views here in Western North Carolina.

If you enjoy hiking, or if you're considering giving hiking a try, read on!  These are some beautiful Blue Ridge Mountain hiking trails!

Chimney Rock State Park

Chimney Rock State Park

Chimney Rock State Park is located just outside of Lake Lure in the town of the same name, Chimney Rock.  Chimney Rock NC is located about 40 minutes southeast of Asheville, North Carolina.  

The park offers a number of trails for visitors to explore.  The trail up to the Chimney itself is well worth the stair climb and even has a number of super nice views on the way up.  If you can’t make the climb up, there is an elevator to the top.  

The Chimney itself sits 315 feet above the surrounding landscape.  On a clear day, you can see for miles and in particular, see beautiful Lake Lure nestled between the mountains in the distance (see the photo above).

If you are up for more incredible views and an even more intense hike, travel up the Skyline Trail which goes above the Chimney on the upper cliffs.  The Skyline trail has some steep inclines and is pretty rough and rocky in some areas, so we recommend this for the more experienced hikers only.

Black Balsam Knob

Graveyard Fields from Black Balsam

Black Balsam Knob is located in the Pisgah National Forest and this stunning peak sits at 6,214 feet in elevation, making it the 23rd highest peak in North Carolina.

The hike up to the summit is 2 miles roundtrip and is considered a moderate hike.  The trail is mostly flat and well maintained, but it does have a few inclines in various portions on the trail.

You'll begin your hike from the parking area off Black Balsam Road, where the head of the trail is well marked.   As you hike along the trail you will begin a moderate clime upward and go through a beautiful pine forest that leads into grassy meadow with almost 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains.  It can get windy here, so dress appropriately.

You will hike to the a smaller bald first and then approximately another half a mile to Black Balsam Knob.  Once you reach the top of the bald it provides a 360 degree stunning views of the surrounding Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains.

Sam’s Knob

Sam's Knob View

Sam’s Knob is located in the Pisgah National Forest  not far from Waynesville, NC and the peak sits at around 6,040 feet in elevation.

You can reach the trail to Sam's Knob from the Black Balsam access road and parking lot at MP420.2 on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The trail to Sam's Knob begins at the pit toilets at the edge of the parking area and onto an old roadbed. As you hike, you will come to a gorgeous meadow full of flowers and butterflies during the Spring and Summer.  In the distance on the far side of the meadow, you will see the Sam's Knob ahead.

You'll take a right at the T intersection to head up to the summit.  The hike is approximately 2.5 miles roundtrip and the trail is moderate and well maintained.  There are some inclines and steep areas but your efforts are well worth it once you get to the top.

From the summit of Sam's Knob you will see the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains Great Smoky Mountains.  On a clear day, you can see for more than 20 miles.

Make sure to bring a picnic with you, because you won’t want to leave these views anytime soon!

See our Top 18 Blue Ridge Parkway Hiking Trails!

DON'T MISS THESE GREAT PARKWAY TRAILS

Craggy Gardens/Craggy Pinnacle

Craggy Gardens Pinnacle sits on a peak at MP364.1 above the Blue Ridge Parkway at 5,892 elevation.  Craggy Gardens is located just north of Asheville NC, and is one of the most beautiful areas and stops along the Parkway.   The views from the road-side visitor center are beautiful, but if you hike to the top of the Pinnacle, you'll be rewarded with exceptional high elevation views.

The Craggy Gardens area includes a visitors center, picnic areas, and hiking trails.   Although the Craggy Gardens Pinnacle Trail is short, at 1.4 miles round trip, it is a somewhat steep.  The trail is beautiful, with a dense forest of birch trees and rhododendrons surrounding the trail on the way up. 

At the top, the views are stunning, and nearly 360 degree.   This is an exceptionally good location for viewing a sunrise or sunset.  The observation area offers places to sit and you can have a picnic.  This is also a popular place for photographers.

Rough Ridge

One of the Top Blue Ridge Parkway Hiking Trails for stellar views is Rough Ridge Trail at milepost 302.8.  The trail up the top  is just under a mile but it is somewhat strenuous and steep. 

The ridge sits at 4,773-feet in elevation.  You will hike the trail from the parking lot directly off the Parkway,  up to the boardwalk which is there to protect the plant growth.

From there, continue to walk towards the ridge itself.  On the way, you can enjoy the views which of Grandfather Mountain and Linn Cove Viaduct.  Once you reach the ridge you can enjoy the spectacular long-distance views (on a clear day you may even see the Charlotte skyline).  This is a perfect place for a picnic, and a very popular place for a stunning sunrise.

Max Patch

Blue Hour at Max Patch NC

Max Patch is a hidden gem and some even call it the Crown Jewel.  Max Patch is found on the Appalachian Trail, in Pisgah National Forest near the NC and TN border.  The summit at Max Patch is at 4,629-feet in elevation bald, offering stunning long distance and 360 degree views.   

The trailhead is located along an old dirt road through the Harmon Den area off I-40.  Parking can be an issue during peak seasons, an especially on weekends and holidays.  You'll want to arrive early to avoid the crowds and people.

There will be are loop trails one is 1.4 miles and the other is 2.4 miles.   Both trails begin at the parking area, and large trail sign.  There is a 3rd trail up the middle, but it is not a formal trail, and causes damage to the area when used.

Max Patch isn't the tallest summit on our list or in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but the views from the top are truly stunning,  especially for sunrises and sunsets.  

Max Patch makes for a beautiful place for couples to sit watching the sunset and have a romantic picnic.  Max Patch also very family friendly, and children will enjoy the large fields to play in (don’t forget to bring a kite).  Even the family dog can come along!

Devil’s Courthouse

Devil's Courthouse

Devil’s Courthouse is an overlook located on the Blue Ridge Parkway at MP422 that is a popular stopping point for many traveling the scenic road.  It gets its name from a local Cherokee legend that says the mountain is where the devil (Judaculla in English, and Tsul'Kalu in Cherokee) held court in the caves below the mountain.

To hike to the top you will take a path and trail from the parking lot, while the hike is short it is very steep with most of it being paved but turning to gravel and rocks towards the top.   This is one of, if not the steepest hikes on the Parkway, but is short.

Once you get to the top there are gorgeous 360 views all around you from the observation area.  There are also places just to sit and relax after the hike. If you have time to stick around for the sunset you may see a beautiful display of colors in the sky as the sun goes down.

Water Rock Knob

Sunset at Waterrock Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Waterrock Knob is another very popular mountain peak located off the Blue Ridge Parkway at MP451.2 near Maggie Valley NC

Waterrock Knob is popular due to the almost 360 view from the parking lot.  "The Knob" also has restroom facilities and a visitors center (our friend Gina works there, be sure to tell her hello!).  While you are hanging in the parking lot you can witness some of the most breathtaking sunrises and sunsets on the parkway and in the Blue Ridge Mountains as a whole.   Waterrock is truly spectacular.

The peak of Waterrock is at 6,292-feet in elevation, making it the highest peak in this area.  To access the peak, you'll have to take the hiking trail up to the top, from the parking area.   The trails is strenuous with a round trip distance of only 1.2 miles, but it's steep and can be very rocky in some places.  We encourage you to be prepared for a real hike not casual stroll.

Pro Tip - The best time to see a sunset is if they are calling for a storm to move in or if a storm is moving out. 

Hawksbill Mountain 

Hawksbill Mountain is located close to the town of Linville NC and sits at an elevation of 4,009-feet. There are two parking areas and from them you can find the three different trailheads for this area.  There are three different trails you can take to the Hawksbill Mountain viewing area.

The first one is Hawksbill Loop Hike which is less than 3 miles.  A much easier, but longer trail is Upper Hawksbill Trail to the Summit.  This hike it adds an extra half a mile to the hike. The last trail is Hawksbill Summit Hike which is less than 2 miles but is much steeper and strenuous.

Once you get to the top Hawksbill offers incredible 360-degree panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, and you can even see the Charlotte skyline on a clear day.

About the author

Jenn Deane is co-owner of Blue Ridge Mountain Life. She has spent more than 20 years in these majestic Blue Ridge Mountains. She loves wildlife, hiking, and waterfalls. Jenn co-founded Blue Ridge Mountain Life along with her husband Jenn. She loves creating travel guides to help others discover and enjoy the Blue Ridge Mountains where she lives.

Jenn is also an avid hiker, photographer, and videographer. She really enjoys interacting and helping the more than 500,000 people per month that follow Blue Ridge Mountain Life.


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